St. Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer is a book I wish I didn’t need. St. Monica, whose feast day is August 27th, is best known as the mother of St. Augustine who faithfully prayed for her son who was living a wayward life. Her faith and prayers bore great fruit. Her son became one of the Church’s best-known saints, and St. Monica is now known the patron saint of mothers of children who have lost their way.
I had hoped of all the saints, I would never need to rely on St. Monica. Yet, I have unfortunately joined that group of mothers as one of my young-adult sons has left the Church and is making decisions that are breaking my heart. I know all I can do is pray and continue to offer a positive example, which brought me to this book that I found on the shelf of my parish library.
In the Foreword, CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey shares her own devotion to St. Monica as she prayed many years for the conversion of her husband. She writes that “many of us turn to St. Augustine’s mom regularly for support and strength as we raise children in an increasingly secularized society.”
Authors Mike Aquilina and Mark W. Sullivan (who also happen to be uncle and nephew) then offer some background information on the lives of St. Monica and St. Augustine, saying that Monica “taught Christians how to parent their adult children.” St. Monica was born around 331 in Thagaste, North Africa. She learned the Christian faith from an elderly maidservant. Her parents chose Patricius for her husband. He was a government official, non-Christian, known for his womanizing and bad temper. Yet, in time, he came to appreciate the wife he had in Monica and converted before his death.
Their son Augustine was brought up Christian but not baptized (a common practice in those days as it was thought your chances of going to heaven were better if you were baptized close to death). When he went to Carthage for higher education, he spent his time partying and had an illegitimate son. He also was intrigued by the philosophy of the Manicheans. When he returned home with his mistress and son, Monica continued to pray and weep for Augustine. A local bishop told her that a child of so many tears would not be lost, which she took great comfort in. Monica taught Augustine’s mistress and son the faith, but when Augustine left his mother behind and went to Rome with his son, Monica was angry at God for ignoring her prayers. Not one to sit still, Monica got on a boat and followed them to Rome where she got to know Bishop Ambrose, who would play a big part in Augustine’s conversion. Monica’s endless prayers were finally answered and her son fully embraced Christianity shortly before his mother’s death.
In the pages of St. Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer, Aquilina and Sullivan discuss the lessons we can learn from St. Monica’s example. St. Monica knew what it was to feel like God was ignoring her, yet she kept praying. She was honest with God, not afraid to tell Him what she really thought. She was willing to forgive her son for how he treated her, even though we have no record that he ever asked for forgiveness. She never gossiped, instead serving as a peacemaker for those around her. She knew she couldn’t do everything on her own and sought help when she needed it. She also respected the freedom God gave her son, even when she wished he would make different decisions. Each short chapter includes a reflection, a meditation from the writings of St. Augustine, a brief practical resolution, and prayer.
St. Monica is a heavenly friend to those of us struggling with parenting wayward children. St. Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer offers hope for those with heavy hearts.
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